Wow. It's hard to know where to start when describing one of the most impressive rock performances you've ever seen, but let's get it clear now: if you ever get the chance to see this woman live, DO IT. This was one of only 3 autumn UK tour dates for Patti (god knows how TCT managed to get her on in Oxford, so more power to them) - London, Oxford and Cambridge, and she survived a nasty on-stage fall at her London show on Sunday, so it seems that we were doubly lucky to get this Oxford performance.
Looking like a cross between Keith Richards, PJ Harvey and her old, studiedly androgynous self, Smith steered gingerly but gracefully between catlike, snakeline siren, naughty girl and witch, dressed in her trademark jeans, white shirt and oversized man's jacket. Between numbers, she seemed to consult with her band democratically about which tune to play next, and her spoken intros were spent eloquently extolling the virtues of our fair city (home of Lewis Carroll, one of her literary idols), whilst exuding warmth, charm and intelligence, albeit with an edge of steel. Heckles were quashed with wit and good-humour, or included and absorbed; her love for her fellow human (and strong anti-war stance) comes across strongly in her music, and she often climbed off the stage mid number to be on the level with her audience. The very competent band (drums, bass, two guitars - including her original and continuing collaborator, Lenny Kaye - keyboard, guest mandolin - and once, Patti on clarinet) started out on a reggae tip, and it was instantly clear that Patti's performance powers have not diminished with her increased years (she's 60). Her deep, strong, soulful voice was captivating, drawing us in as she rolled through a two hour set of originals and inspired covers. Van Morrison (Gloria - covered by Smith on her debut album Horses in 1975), Hendrix (Are You Experienced? - nowhere near as much as you, Patti, clearly), Nirvana (Smells Like Teen Spirit), Jefferson Airplane (White Rabbit - arriving at the start of the song via an audience heckle and a description of William Shatner writhing on the floor in cold turkey in an episode of Route 66), to a rousing conclusion via her punk-rock hit Rock and Roll Nigger. I found 2 hours a little long to be standing, but Patti was still going for it as the front section of the crowd jumped around enthusiastically through her last numbers, only further demonstrating that she can dance, spit and shout as well as any of the whippersnappers in current fashion, and for longer too.
F*ck the Rolling Stones and Led Zep (and she probably did) - Patti is one of the truest rock history icons still playing and worth far more than the ticket price.